Buffaloes capture WAC swimming championship
Ashleigh Chappel named WAC Swimmer of the Year
Since girls swimming became a varsity sport in the Western Athletic Conference in the 1996 school year, Great Bend had won the championship all but a brief, 4-year span from 1999 to 2002 when Garden City claimed the top spot.
Seventeen straight Panther titles, and the missing season of 2020, all came to an end on Thursday at the Garden City Family YMCA Pool when the AquaBuffs of Garden City High School toppled their chief rival, scoring 413.5 points to the Panthers’ 369.5 to win the coveted crown.
“So, it’s been awhile,” a jubilant GCHS coach Jennifer Meng said in the aftermath and learning of the long Great Bend dominance. “I just knew we hadn’t beaten them in like forever, so it’s a big day for the girls.”
Meng had every reason to be ecstatic after watching her squad dominate by winning 10 of the 12 events outright and tying for first in another while finishing second in the only event in which they weren’t in or tied for the top spot.
“We knew we had to perform well at the top end of our roster and we knew that Great Bend was probably overall deeper than us,” Meng said. “It was just a matter of how we performed, and the girls were just great today.”
Senior Ashleigh Chappel won two individual events – 50-yard freestyle (27.45) and 100-yard freestyle (59.32), swam on the winning 200- and 400-yard freestyle relay teams (both lowering state qualifying times) to earn the WAC Swimmer of the Year Award. Meng was selected as the Coach of the Year, and every winning performance by the AquaBuffs earned them a first-team all-WAC honor.
That would include Ashleigh and her younger sister Paige (1 win, 2 relays), Avery Meng (2 individual wins and 2 relays), Lana Rodriguez, Mya Garcia (tied for first in 100-yard butterfly). Rodriguez, Peyton Tull, Garcia and Lexi Arwine combined to win the 200-yard individual medley (2:08.18) to also claim all-WAC honors.
Paige Chappel won the 200-yard freestyle (2:14.68), sister Ashleigh the two freestyle sprints, Rodriguez the 100-yard backstroke (1:08.69) and was second in the 500-yard freestyle to earn critical points.
Avery Meng’s winning time in the 200-yard individual medley was 2:31.09, just touching the finish line .01 of a second ahead of Emilee Hall of Great Bend. She also secured a coveted state qualifying time when she won the 100-yard breaststroke in 1:13.32 while Garcia and Arwine claimed a third and fourth in that event.
Peyton Tull finished second to Ashleigh Chappel in the 50-yard freestyle (27.86) and the Paige Chappel was second to her sister in the 100-yard freestyle (1:00.14).
The two freestyle relay teams, already qualified for the 6A state meet next week, lowered their times by two and four seconds in the 200-yard freestyle (1:48.44) with Meng, Tull and the Chappel sisters combining for that mark while the two Chappels, Rodriguez and Meng comprised the 400-yard freestyle squad that clocked a 4:02.94.
“The girls were so excited and I think it was just an accumulation of all the hard work they’ve put in this spring,” said Head Coach Meng. “We just had everybody performing nearly at the top of their times this season, and it took everyone’s effort to score points everywhere possible.”
Meng had though her squad might have a chance to win the majority of the events, but to win all but one of them was just like icing on the cake.
“There were a couple of events where we just didn’t know about the competition,” Meng said. “But we came through and I’m so proud of the girls.”
That brought an end to the regular season and now the AquaBuffs will practice and prepare for the 6A state meet, scheduled for Friday, May 21, at the Topeka Capitol Federal Natatorium. This year’s meet will be completed in one day as did the boys’ state back in March due to some COVID restrictions.
1. Garden City, 413.5; 2.Great Bend, 369.5; 3. Dodge City, 258; 4. Hays, 134; 5. Liberal, 89.
Garden City Results
200y medley relay—1. 2:08.18 (Rodriguez, Tull, Garcia, Arwine).
200y freestyle—1. P. Chappel, 2:14.68.
200y individual medley—1. Meng, 2:31.09.
50y freestyle—1. A. Chappel, 27.45; 2. Tull, 27.86.
100y butterfly—1T. Garcia, 1:10.95; with Ruth Williams, Great Bend.
100y freestyle—1. A. Chappel, 59.32; 2. P. Chappel, 1:00.14.
500y freestyle—2. Rodriguez, 6:11.33.
200y freestyle relay—1. 1:48.44 (Meng, Tull, A. Chappel, P. Chappel), State Qualifying time.
100y backstroke—1. Rodriguez, 1:08.69; 3. Tull, 1:15.37.